Monday, 18 September 2017 13:01

Homeless to be helped by ‘innovative’ hackathon solutions

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A selection of “Australia’s top digital experts spent the weekend ‘hacking’ the problem of homelessness to come up with innovative solutions to help address the challenges to housing the disadvantaged".

A news release has popped into my email, telling us that “volunteer IT design and data experts from corporations including Telstra, Domain, Deloitte and QBE insurance, spent the weekend developing digital solutions to homeless issues".

The event was organised by Anne-Marie Elias, who is billed as “an expert in disruptive change”, and who stated: “The entire weekend didn’t cost the government a cent. Our challenge now will be to get the NSW Department of Family and Community Service to embrace, or even consider, some of these innovative solutions."

We’re told the hackathon “drew interest from some of Australia’s top corporations and homeless workers”, and that it was also “not attended by any NSW Government official or City of Sydney Council representative”, which presumably is a reflection that government certainly does care – about itself.

Although no photos were provided, we are assured that “Rabbi Mendel Kastel from Jewish House, the Rev. Bill Crews from the Exodus Foundation, and Tracy Howe the chief executive of the NSW Council of Social Services participated in the hackathon".

In addition, numerous homeless people were “on hand to share their experiences".

The winning team “designed a solution creating a centralised booking system for unused capacity in accommodation, while second prize went to a solution matching young people, at risk of homelessness, with a community of aunties and uncles".

Rabbi Kastel, who runs the homeless shelter, Jewish House, noted all nine solutions had merit, and said: “The state government is spending about $30 million a year to house and support the homeless, yet the problem is growing. Other countries are reducing their homeless numbers or even solving their problems by embracing more innovative solutions.

“We also need to change for the sake of homeless teens, domestic violence victims and those people just down on their luck.”

Vibewire president Gavin Heaton, who sponsored the event, said corporate Australia had demonstrated that it had heart, presumably putting the heat on government, which clearly demonstrated it had no heart as we’re told nobody from government bothered to show up or take part.

Heaton said: “This hackathon has been possible through the generosity of our volunteer hackers and the sponsorship of Telstra, Domain Group, QBE Insurance, New Horizons, SGCH, Minerva Collective, Sydney School of Entrepreneurship, NCOSS, Social Change Central, Academy Xi and MnM Institute.”

Heaton added the "hackathon" would be the first of many, where digital experts would hack social problems, and concluded: “The appetite from corporate Australia and some of our top digital experts is just outstanding. They all want to be involved in our next hackathon in November, focusing on innovative solutions to domestic violence issues.”


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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